STEAM School visits Oak Spring Farm

Our April fieldtrip to the Biocultural Conservation Farm at Oak Spring in Upperville, VA was a little washed out. Instead of tromping through the muddy gardens in the pouring rain, the creative staff came up with a fun indoor activity. In the classroom students made their own model of a walled in garden!

They designed their garden using cardstock and tracing popsicle sticks for their beds. Soil or “brown paint” was applied to the beds. Next, they threw on some weeds to simulate having to “wake the gardens up”. Black plastic was placed on the beds to act as a silage tarp that would kill any weeds wanting to grow back and help decompose all of the plant material left from the previous growing season.

Using soil test kits, they learned how to test the soil for Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and pH. After, they pulled the silage tarp and raked their gardens using a scuffle-hoe (pipe cleaner) and a rake (plastic fork).

Next came the amendments to help improve the soil for the plants. Sea kelp was green glitter, Azomite was black glitter, Humic Acid was pink glitter and Feather Meal was yellow glitter. They learned how these natural materials help the plants to grow and thrive.

At the farm they use a broad fork to aerate the soil and move the amendments deeper instead of a gas powered tiller. Students mimicked this with using a plastic fork. Next they used the tilther (paintbrush) to prepare the top 2 inches of soil to prepare for seeds or transplanting.

Students got to choose different seeds to plant (glue) into their beds. They learned about the many heirloom plants that they grow at the BCF. They labeled their beds with a sharpie and installed drip irrigation using yarn. This was such a fun simulation, and the kids were so happy with their models.

Afterwards, they planted some microgreen and pollinator seeds to take home. It was such a fun and educational trip, and we were all pretty happy we didn’t come home cold and dripping wet. We can’t wait to return in the late summer to see what is happening IN the gardens!

And the winner is….!

This week the winners of The STEAM School’s Battle of the Books were announced to cheers from all! There were so many amazing titles to choose from and many of the races were really tight.

In the Picture Book category, the final two contestants were Pete the Cat vs The Pigeon Needs A Bath, and the winner is The Pigeon Needs A Bath!

In the Juvenile Fiction category, the choice came down to Wonder vs Percy Jackson. Percy Jackson in the semi finals had won against both Holes and The Harry Potter series after a tie the previous week against Harry Potter. The final winner is Percy Jackson! Possibly many new fans created after seeing the musical hosted at our local high school earlier this month!

In the Graphic Novel category, the final contest came down to the Wings of Fire graphic novel vs My Hero Academia. There was some minor grumbling when Wings of Fire appeared in two different categories but it is a wild favorite here at STEAM School and was declared the final winner in this category!

Finally, in our Young/Adult Fiction competition, the choice came down to Norse Mythology vs Mortal Engines but STEAM students were split evenly in their voting and we had a tie!

Here are the brand new books purchased for our school library.

Looking forward to next year and hearing about all the wonderful books the kids read between now and then!

STEAM School Battle of the Books Finals

STEAM School students began the final round of voting this week. Choices have been tough and races have been tight!

On Tuesday mornings, students move slowly through the hall checking each board to see which books have made it to the next round. There’s been a mixture of surprise and excitement for the wins and some disappointment for the losses.

Its definitely been very exciting and fun for the teachers to hear the students talk about their favorite books with their friends and get excited about new books! Winners will be announced next Tuesday and Thursday and the winning books will be purchased for the STEAM School Library.


STEAM School was invited to see, The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, presented by Warren Co High School and Skyline High School. It was a wonderful experience as many of our students love the Percy Jackson series as well as Greek mythology.

Afterward, they were invited on backstage tour. They were very intrigued by the set design area where there were lots of building supplies. The also got to see where the cast waits to go on stage, where the props are kept and all the lights!

Then they made their way up to the light and sound booth. There they learned about the relays for the mics and how the sound board works. They also saw how the lights are coded or programmed to the show.

It was such a great experience for them to see all that goes into a theater production, from the musicians in the pit, to the set design and costumes, to the acting and singing to the lights and sound. There are many roles to fill when making a production and the comradery was evident.

Following the tour our students got to sit in on a Q&A with the cast, crew and a drama club. It was really interesting to hear about the different techniques the actors use to improve their skills and how others that prefer not to act also play an important role in the production. There is something for everyone.

A special thanks to Stephen and Rose Havery for making this happen.

STEAM School 2023 Battle of the Books

STEAM School students nominated nearly 100 books for our second annual Battle of the Books! Wow! We narrowed it down to 36 books and beginning this Tuesday we will begin voting on our favorite picture books, juvenile fiction books, graphic novels, and young adult fiction books.

Nominees for the 1st Round of Voting

Picture BooksJuvenile FictionGraphic NovelsYoung/Adult Fic
Cookie’s Week vs
Pigeon Needs a Bath
Fancy Nancy vs WonderDog Man Series vs
Calvin & Hobbes
A Promised Land vs
The Hate U Give
Dragon’s Love Tacos vs The Very Hungry CaterpillarDiary of A Wimpy Kid Series vs Wings of Fire SeriesWings of Fire Graphic Novel vs Animal Crossing SeriesNorse Mythology vs Aurora Rising
There’s a Bear On My Chair vs Pete The CatSisters Ever After vs HolesMy Hero Academia Series vs The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the HorseThe Giver vs Mortal Engines
Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea vs Mr Putter and Tabby Walk the DogHarry Potter Series vs Percy Jackson seriesThe Runaway Princess vs Warrior Cats Graphic NovelReady Player One vs Hunger Games

There were so many wonderful books nominated that didn’t make the cut. Below is the full list of STEAM School students favorite books to read.

STEAM Students Recommended Reading

Picture BooksGraphic NovelsJuvenile FictionYA/AF
Narwhal Unicorn of the Sea by Ben ClantonPower Rangers Graphic Novel Series by Kyle HigginsXander and the Rainbow Barfing Unicorn series by Matthew ManningThe Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
There’s a Bear on my Chair by Ross CollinsWarrior Cats Graphic Novel by Erin HunterAru Shah series by Roshani ChokshiThe Giver by Lois Lowry
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo WillemsWings of Fire Graphic Novel by Tui T SutherlandGreen Ember by SD SmithMortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Fred is that you? By Mavis SmithThe Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse by Charlie MackeseyWonderstruck by Brian SelznickThe Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Cookie’s Week by Cindy WardThe Runaway Princess by Johann TroianowskiThe Growly series by Erin Ulrich and Phillip UlrichWorld War Z by Max Brooks
Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara BottnerMy Hero Academia Series by Kohei HorikoshiMinecraft BooksReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo WillemDog Man series by Dav PilkeyCaptain Underpants by Dave PilkeyThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Let’s Go For A Drive by Mo WillemsFive Worlds by Mark Siegel and Alexis SiegelMinecraft Woodsword Chronicles by Nick EliopulusThe Iliad by Homer
Fletcher and the Springtime Blossoms by Julia RawlinsonZita the Spacegirl by Ben HatkeDragon Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan QuinnA Promised Land by Barack Obama
Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo WillemsCalvin and Hobbes by Bill WattersonWild Kratts booksNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Pete the Cat by James Dean and Kimberly DeanFoxtrot by Bill AmendPercy Jackson (series) – The Lightening Thief by Rick RiordanThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam RubinCat Kid Comic Club Series by Dav PilkeyBarbie BooksAurora Rising by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Dino Trux by Chris GallAnimal Crossing series by Kokonasu RumbaFancy Nancy by Jane O’ConnerThe Storm Light Archive Series by Brandon Sanderson
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric CarlePea, Bee & Jay by Brian SmithWings of Fire Series by Tui T SutherlandGregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack KeatsElla and Owen by Jaden KentUltimate Book of Home Plans by Editors of Creative Homeowner
Monster Trucks (Step Into Reading) by Susan E GoodmanZoey and Sassafras series by Asia CitroPools and Spas by Fran J Donegan
If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura NumeroffDragon Masters by Tracy WestHot Tubs, Saunas and Steam Baths by Alan Sanderfoot
Mr. Putter and Tabby Walk the Dog by Cynthia RylantMouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly ClearyHunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Perfect Nest by Catherine FriendThe Last Firehawk series by Katrina Charman
Forgotten Fairy Tales of Brave and Brilliant Girls (Illustrated Story Collection by Various Authors)Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgeson Burnett
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Explorer Academy by Trudi Trueit
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne
Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Big Nate series by Lincoln Pierce
Warrior Cat Series by Erin Hunter
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Fazbear Frights Series by Scott Cawthon
Junie B Jones by Barbara Park
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Car Science by Richard Hammond
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Minecraft: The Island by Max Brooks
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Holes by Louis Sachar
The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems
Sisters Ever After seriers by Leah Cypress
Be Real, Macy Weaver by Lakita Wilson

Bird In The Hand Presentation

STEAM students were treated to a special presentation at school with an incredible visit from Bird In The Hand, a raptor education and rehabilitation program run by Nikki Stamps. She brought with her 4 different owls that live in the area: a Great Horned owl, a Barn owl, a Barred owl and an Eastern Screech owl.

Students learned of the many different adaptations that owls have to help them survive. We learned that they turn their heads 270º because of their immobile cone shaped eyes that take up 70% of the owl’s skull. Their beaks are specialized for gripping and tearing prey and we were shown how their talons are like ratchets that grip and hold onto prey.

The presentation ended with class pictures with the Great Horned Owl and a final presentation of the owl gobbling up and swallowing mice whole. The presentation was very engaging and thoughtful. Students and parents came away with a new perspective on the lives of owls and what amazing birds they are. You can learn more about Bird in the Hand at

Meet STEAM Teacher: Julia Buergari

We continue to get to know some of our fabulous STEAM teachers. Today we’ll introduce you to Julia Buergari. Julia is is teaching math projects classes at The STEAM School, and also leads the filmmaking elective.

How did you first find out about the STEAM School?

JB: I ran into our old music teacher at the library and we started talking about homeschooling. She was familiar with STEAM and told me more about it.

How have you been involved in the past, and what role(s) are you filling this year?

JB: Last semester I taught theater classes and the math games elective. This year I am teaching math projects and filmmaking.

Julia’s 2019/20 Class Descriptions:

Math Projects – In this class, we will be exploring the beauty of math in nature, discovering how math surrounds us and using key math concepts to solve real world problems. The topics covered this year include patterns, data collection and graphing, probability, logic, geometry and economics. Every class will include a mini-lesson on the topic being covered and a hands-on project that connects the abstract concept to the real world. From creating tessellation artwork to making an economically sound business plan, we are going to have lots of fun in Math Projects this year!

Filmmaking – In the filmmaking elective class, we will be exploring the art of filmmaking through viewing, critiquing and creating 5×5 films. The 5×5 film is a montage of 5-five second shots around a specific theme. Each class will film and edit a whole group 5×5 film with the option of creating their own at home to share with the class. Composition, editing and effective critique techniques will be incorporated throughout. I am so excited to see what the children create!

What is your favorite thing about teaching at STEAM?

JB: The community!

What is your background/experience with the topics you’ll be teaching?

JB: Math is my first love, and one of my majors in college was art history with a concentration in filmmaking

Any sneak peeks you can share about what the learners in your class might be working on this semester?

JB: Shark Tank!

Tell us a little about your personal interests/hobbies.

JB: I enjoy coaching soccer, yoga, travel and camping.

What is one goal you have for yourself and/or your students in this school year?

JB: To discover the beauty of math!

Meet STEAM Teacher: Beth Herz

We continue to get to know some of our fabulous STEAM teachers. Today we’ll introduce you to Beth Herz. Beth is is teaching Coding and Robotics classes at The STEAM School, and also leads the Yoga and Board Games electives.

How did you first find out about the STEAM School?

BH: I learned of the STEAM School through its founder, Elena McIntosh. Our paths had crossed a year or two before, and I learned through a Facebook posting that she was starting a cooperative school. I went to a meet up to learn more about it but decided at first not to participate. We were comfortable in our routine, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to change it. About three months after the meetup though, I learned of the Coding and Robotics class being offered. My oldest son has a strong interest in robots so we decided to come on the day that the robots class was offered. We were almost immediately pulled in by the sense of community we received from the school, and by the next semester, we were fully involved all three days.

How have you been involved in the past, and what role(s) are you filling this year?

BH: Previously, I have assisted and lead in the nursery. Last semester I filled in as the Coding and Robotics, and Kindergarten teacher, and led the Handworks and Book Club electives. This year I will be continuing as the Coding and Robotics teacher, and leading the Yoga and Board Games electives.

What is your favorite thing about teaching at STEAM?

BH: Seeing the kids share knowledge with each other. Whether it’s sharing how something works or how to draw a character, it’s always gratifying.

What is your background/experience with the topics you’ll be teaching?

BH: My background is not in tech! I filled in to teach Coding and Robotics out of necessity in spring of 2019. My children are fascinated with robotics and I wanted to ensure this class remained available. I also knew just a little bit of how the Lego WeDo 2.0 kits worked from filling in as an assistant teacher when needed. Over the past semester and summer, I’ve learned quite a bit more about how the kits work and found many resources offered through Lego and Scratch Jr for how and why to teach kids robotics and coding.

Any sneak peeks you can share about what the learners in your class might be working on this semester?

BH: This semester we’ll be using more of the tools offered through the Lego WeDo 2.0 app. We know how to build the robots and we know how to code the robots. There is a Document tool that we haven’t utilized yet. My hope is that by utilizing this tool, students can more easily record their processes and share what they learn with each other.

Tell us a little about your personal interests/hobbies.

BH: I like to read fiction, and enjoy doing handcrafts. I’ve crocheted for almost 20 years and have just picked up cross stitch and embroidery over the past year. I occasionally practice yoga and play guitar.

What is one goal you have for yourself and/or your students in this school year?

BH: One goal I have for myself and my students is to become more familiar with, and comfortable using, the vocabulary of coding and robotics.

Meet STEAM Teacher: Tamara Fickling

Let’s continue to get to know some of our fabulous STEAM teachers. Today we’ll introduce you to Tamara Fickling. Tamara is is teaching Science classes at The STEAM School, and also assists with the Ceramics elective.

How did you first find out about The STEAM School?

TF: I found out about STEAM from a Open House Event posted on Facebook. It was funny, because I had met with the founder several years prior about starting a Co-op. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant and put the idea on hold. It was great to see it come to fruition!

How have you been involved in the past, and what role(s) will you be filling this coming school year?

TF: In the past I assisted in classes where ever I could. This year I will be leading in the Science class and assisting in the Ceramics class. Science will rotate between Life Science, Nature of Matter and Earth and Space.

What is your favorite thing about teaching at STEAM?

TF: I think my favorite thing about teaching at STEAM will be making classes fun! It will be a challenge not to bore the children with too many facts and allow them to experience science!

What is your background/experience with the topic you’ll be teaching?

TF: In college I took many science classes and worked at a children’s nature center guiding students in an outdoor setting covering the Virginia SOLS. I also taught science grades 6-12 at a Waldorf based school for several years in Sperryville. One of my passions, although I have not been able to keep up with it lately, is pottery. I also taught a ceramics class at the school I worked at.

Any sneak peeks you can share about what learners in your class might be working on this coming semester?

TF: I plan on having a lot of fun games and projects. We’ll start out with learning how we classify living things.

Tell us a little about your personal interests/hobbies.

TF: I am a nature nerd! I love going for walks and finding things and learning about them. Whether it’s a new mushroom or bug I love learning new things.

What is one goal you have for yourself and/or your students this school year?

TF: One goal I have is developing great relationships with the students.